In the light of recent high-profile cases of racism at work, AUE would like to reiterate our position regarding race equality. We believe that unfortunately racism is endemic and institutionally rooted in our society and that Black and Minority Ethnic (BAME) members of our union and those working across the arts and culture sector, are still frequently confronted with prejudice and discrimination and face under representation, in the workplace, public life and media. There has been a rise in racist rhetoric which has become more mainstream in the UK.
“The boundaries between the far right and the mainstream right have become increasingly blurred, with mainstream politicians and commentators using language and rhetoric which was once found only on the far right. This is partly the consequence of the far right engaging in wider cultural and identity issues, but also because centre right politicians have tried to embrace far right narratives to win support.” (Hope Not Hate, State of Hate 2020)
The UK has also witnessed a well reported rise in hate crime following Brexit. Reported hate crime has doubled in the last five years and by far the large majority of hate crimes remain racist crimes (Home Office, Hate Crime, England and Wales, 2018-2019). But we are fully aware that for a multiple of reasons, not least a well-founded lack of trust in the police and the criminal justice system, by BAME communities, that the actual figures will be far higher. There has also been a purposeful cultivation of a lack of understanding of white privilege and the power differentials in our society that allow for the oppression of BAME individuals and groups to continue. Calling it racism to have one’s privileges pointed out and yet saying that BAME people too frequently mention racism is a clear demonstration of where this calculated and racist approach is leading us.
As a trade union whose members work in the arts and culture sector we reject the argument that freedom of speech and expression outweighs the right to challenge racism and strive for race equality and we oppose any efforts in the sector to justify racism on this basis. As a trade union, equality must be at the heart of all we do, and we believe that trade unions must be safe spaces for all their actual or potential members. We oppose all forms of racism and that includes any efforts to promote racism by claiming it is artistic expression. We stand in solidarity with all those facing racism and we work both within the trade union movement, in the arts and culture sector and more widely in society, not just in the UK but globally to combat racism and fascism. Artists’ Union calls for a campaign for equality and for those who suffer racist attacks to be empowered to speak out and take action against racism.
National Executive Committee